The San Jose City Council passed two measures on Tuesday, requiring all San Jose gun owners to both carry firearm liability insurance and pay a mandatory $25 gun ownership fee, becoming the first city in the nation to do either.
According to the passed legislation, all San Jose residents who own at least one gun would need to pay a $25 annual fee. Gun insurance would also need to be purchased, with coverage extending to losses or damages coming from accidental firearm discharge, intentional acts of third parties who use the weapon, and any other negligent use. Policyholder misconduct would not be covered by the insurance, with law enforcement members being exempted from carrying insurance. If the gun is somehow lost or stolen, the firearm owner would be held liable for anything that happens with the gun until the loss of the gun is reported to law enforcement.
Many details of the ordinance are still being worked out, such as penalties and fines. Mayor Sam Liccardo ruled out facing criminal charges and losing their weapons if the law isn’t followed on Tuesday, but other things, such as fines, could be possible. However, the main emphasis Tuesday night in terms of punishment was having firearms owners be liable for damages if their gun is misplaced and goes unreported.
Mayor Liccardo has been attempting to pass these ordinances since 2019 as a way to reduce gun violence, reduce the financial cost of gun violence on taxpayers, and increase accountability of shooters. Mass shootings in the area, such as the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting and the 2021 VTA Light Rail Yard Shooting have led to his proposed legislation to rebound several times, with the latter shooting in particular pushing the proposal to finally reach the City Council on Tuesday.
During the long meeting, Liccardo defended his proposed ordinances, noting that they would reduce the harms caused by firearms, would lead to increased firearm safety, and would save the city millions each year in reduced emergency response services and the firearm fee funding programs aimed at aimed at preventing gun violence, giving support to families and victims of gun violence, suicide prevention, and other similar services.
“Having liability insurance would encourage people in the 55,000 households in San Jose who legally own at least one registered gun to have gun safes, install trigger locks and take gun safety classes,” argued Mayor Liccardo on Tuesday.
Opponents shot back throughout the night, pointing out that the proposed laws violated the second amendment, would not stop the movement of illegal weapons, and would not stop most gun-related crimes. Liccardo addressed the latter concern later in the meeting noting that his ordinances would not stop mass shootings but would reduce suicides, accidental shootings, and other more common firearm injuries and deaths.
“This won’t stop mass shootings and keep bad people from committing violent crime,” added Liccardo on Tuesday. “Most gun deaths nationally are from suicide, accidental shootings or other causes and even many homicides stem from domestic violence.”
Both ordinances passed in the San Jose City Council
When passed n Tuesday, many City Council members gave personal notes defending their vote for the ordinances. Councilman Sergio Jimenez in particular noted that the ordinances would help reduce “a scourge on our society.” In a statement, Mayor Liccardo said that gun violence and harm would now be reduced, and looked forward for San Jose’s ordinance to help influence other cities to pass their own.
“Tonight San José became the first city in the United States to enact an ordinance to require gun owners to purchase liability insurance, and to invest funds generated from fees paid by gun owners into evidence-based initiatives to reduce gun violence and gun harm.” the Mayor said in a statement on Tuesday. “Thank you to my council colleagues who continue to show their commitment to reducing gun violence and its devastation in our community. I look forward to supporting the efforts of others to replicate these initiatives across the nation.”
My complete statement on tonight's City Council vote on my Gun Harm Reduction proposals ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/l6wszaCsv0
— Sam Liccardo (@sliccardo) January 26, 2022
While many anti-violence and gun control organizations praised the passage of both ordinances on Tuesday, with Brady United even pointing out that San Jose became the first city to have such legislation on Tuesday, many firearms owners groups and local citizen groups denounced the passage and vowed to bring the city to court.
“We’ve opposed this ordinance every step of the way and we will see this through to the end,” said National Association for Gun Rights Dudley Brown on Wednesday. “If the San Jose City Council actually votes to impose this ridiculous tax on the Constitutional right to gun ownership, our message is clear and simple: see you in court.”
“We’ll sue if the proposal takes effect,” added Gun Owners of California executive director Sam Paredes. “It is totally unconstitutional in any configuration.”
Others pointed out that the new law would do little to counter against mass shootings and incidents where criminals got guns illegally.
“Liccardo just brushed this point aside, but this just hurts legal owners who have to go through extra hoops and pay more now, and does nothing to stop criminals themselves,” said Justin Smalls, a leader of a local hunting group in San Jose. to the Globe on Wednesday. “Liccardo has been bragging about he has lawyers ready to go with legal challenges, but that shows you how worried he is that this will not stand up in court. It blatantly ignores the bill of rights, and he knows it.”
The ordinances now face another approval during a second reading on February 8th. If passed again, the new ordinances would take effect on August 8th.
Legal challenges against the ordinance are expected to be filed in the coming months, with multiple gun rights groups already in talks with lawyers and legal advisors. Mayor Liccardo has said that the city has prepared lawyers for such an eventuality.